You could say the Italian Grand Prix started earlier this year in all the controversy surrounding its contract renewal. The track reportedly wanted to bargain with FOM and get a special rate due to it being apart of the ‘vintage’ group of circuits on the calendar, as it funnels money into refurbishing its facilities to bring them up to modern Formula 1 standards.
Bernie of course won’t budge on race fees for good reasons, however it does mean the future of one of F1’s greatest race tracks is in limbo. Next years 21-race calendar suggests that we could see one dropout in favour of a more flexible 20-race calendar. Although with the reduced amount of testing next year, it may well happen if Monza can secure a deal heading into 2016.
The other talking point heading into this weekend is tyres. I’ve waited until Pirelli give us their official findings into the matter before posting this preview, and after reading it I can only come to the conclusion I did in my Belgian GP weekend wrap. A one-stop was clearly possible since Vettel had 30% of tread left on his tyres, but abuse of the circuit ultimately cost him the puncture two laps from the chequered flag.
The stewards have reiterated its now yearly stance on track limits at Monza in its event notes, saying “drivers behind the second apexes of the first and second chicanes and are suspected of gaining any sort of advantage from doing so will be immediately reported to the stewards.” This caveat of ‘gaining an advantage’ however, is what allows drivers to exceed the track limits anyway. They may not gain an advantage doing so, but its going to pose a safety risk as we saw in Belgium if drivers try to push the limits of the stint lengths.
Talks of increasing the minimum tyre pressures by 5psi to allow more of a safety buffer are set to be introduced this weekend, although Lewis Hamilton has already voiced his concerns about that to the media today. Maximum laps per-tyre were also discussed post-Belgium GP, although I’d rather not see either and proper enforcement of track limits. It won’t stop drivers running over the kerbs, but it at least decreases the likelihood of tyre failures at such a high speed circuit.
Speaking of high downforce the teams are introducing their skinny rear wings this weekend. Mercedes looked to have kept the bevel in what is a skinnier version of its rear wing from Belgium this weekend, whilst McLaren probably have the thinnest of them all – presumably to match their size-zero bodywork. Red Bull’s is also quite thin, but its offset by quite a large rear gurney flap.
It will be interesting to see what tops speeds the teams achieve this year since they are supposed to be quicker this year. The fastest I saw last year was Valterri Bottas at 224mph during the closing stages of last years race, but we may see a peak of 230mph – close to the record Juan Pablo Montoya set in 2004.
Key to that of course will be engine power. And for yet another weekend running McLaren and Red Bull are taking Power Unit grid penalties, with both Red Bull drivers set to take 10-place grid penalties for internal combustion engine changes along with Fernando Alonso, whilst Jenson Button takes a five-place grid penalty. This is of course off the back of their combined 105 grid-place penalty in Belgium.
What staggers me in these Power Unit component changes is how both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are still only on their second for each, at what is the 12th round of the 2015 championship. Mercedes set some impressive milage in pre-season testing mind, but I didn’t think it would be enough to use less than half their allocation by Italy.